July Plug-In Electric Car Sales: Volt Steady, Leaf Lethargic (Again)

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2012 Nissan Leaf electric car - net pricing shown on Nissan website

2012 Nissan Leaf electric car - net pricing shown on Nissan website

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Last month, sales of the Chevrolet Volt stayed strong while the Nissan Leaf languished.

This month, it's more of the same.

In July, Chevrolet sold 1,849 Volts, bringing its total for the first seven months of the year to 10,666--and its total U.S. sales since launch to 18,663 (including 7,671 in 2011 and 326 in December 2010).

By contrast, Nissan sold 395 Leaf battery-electric vehicles, giving it a 2012 total thus far of 3,543 (down 26 percent on last year's 4,806 as of July 2011), and overall U.S. sales since launch of 13,236  (9,674 in 2011 and 18 in December 2010).

Nissan has lately resorted to lower-cost lease offers to boost sales of the lagging Leaf. Its vice-president of sales, Al Castignetti, attributes the battery-electric car's low sales this year to a variety of causes, including a change to dealer distribution and increased competition from other plug-in offerings.

In July, Toyota delivered 688 units of the third high-volume plug-in car on the U.S. market, the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid.

That's just barely fewer than last month's 695, and it brings the number of plug-in Prius hybrids delivered since February to 5,021.

That Toyota total is roughly 40 percent higher than the Leaf total, but comes nowhere near the Volt's more than 10,000 sales--leaving the Volt the clear winner in the plug-in arena this year, after it was outsold by the Leaf last year.

2012 Ford Focus Electric, New York City, April 2012

2012 Ford Focus Electric, New York City, April 2012

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While industry watchers were keenly interested to see if Ford could improve on last month's sales of 89 Ford Focus Electrics, the actual total was a mere 38. July was the second month in which Ford's first battery-electric car was delivered in volume.

The final vehicle that contributes to plug-in sales is the Mitsubishi i minicar, of which 33 were delivered, a number identical to the sales the month before, in June.

Coda Automotive, Fisker Automotive, and Tesla Motors refuse to report monthly deliveries of their low-volume electric vehicles.

Overall, the market in the U.S. remains on track to log deliveries that are roughly double those of the 17,000-plus plug-in vehicles sold in 2011.

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Comments (60)
  1. John, I don't understand if you are really interested in green why you would bother discussing vehicles that rounding errors in car volumes and indirectly use coal and fossil fuels. Why aren't you focused on the fuels that could truely make us green and the cars that go with them that sell in volumes. You are a good writer, but after about 6 stories this last week on the Tesla and a focus on Volt (which had a 30,000 car quota for this year and after 7 months has sold 10,000) they do not make a difference. Why aren't you focused on the cars that are making a difference and impacting fuel usage?

  2. @James: Thx for the good words on my writing. Much appreciated.

    We do monthly plug-in sales reports (& Tesla stories) because: (1) Readers like them & they get good traffic. (2) Electric cars are a high-growth segment, albeit from (as you point out) a low base. (3) We view ourselves as a rich resource on plug-in cars, with last year's incorporation of the All Cars Electric site into GCR. We try to target half our coverage to plug-in topics.

    Not all plug-ins use coal & fossil fuels, though most do. But so do the much more efficient gas & diesel vehicles that will provide the bulk of fuel-use reduction.

    What would YOU have us cover instead on "cars that are making a difference"?

  3. Given that the base-load of the power grid has 15% extra capacity (told to me last night by a nuclear power plant operator and renewables advocacy guy working in the industry) - EVs currently pull no additional power from the grid at all that isn't already being produced. When EVs will make a difference is when base-load is taxed. Many EV owners actually buy Solar PV and reduce their overall grid-load substantially. How is that bad, James? Maybe research this stuff better rather than trying to say this segment is using dirty coal? (NG is quickly replacing coal as a primary grid energy source, by the way)

  4. There is a great deal of confusion about this "extra capacity." If more power is being pulled from the grid, more pollution and fuel is used. It is not some form of magical "clean energy."

  5. The extra energy is being used at night, when the grid has extra capacity that is unused. The power companies prefer to run at a steady load, because it costs them a lot to ramp the production up and down.

  6. More to the point, charging at night will eliminate the need to build new power plants.

  7. Absolutely right, we put solar on our house (free install, low lease payment) just after getting the Leaf. Our system probably takes care of the power needs of several neighbors while we're gone during the day - thus diminishing the power requirements in the area, for a net pollution reduction.

  8. my request is that you keep "all cars electric" for pure electric cars.

    you could start a hybrid section for cars like the prius, and volt.

    that way people like myself, who are only interested in bevs, would only see them.

    and of course, articles about new motors, batteries, etc. would remain in all cars electric.

  9. My request is that GCR keep things the way they are.

  10. @EV Enthusiast: If you click on the button marked "All Cars Electric," it limits the sort to anything with a plug.

    As we have said many, many, MANY times, we view a car that can be plugged into the grid and use that stored energy to power itself all electrically some significant portion of the time to be an "electric car".

    We never limited the old All Cars Electric site to battery-electrics, and we feel we would be doing a significant disservice to the rest of the site's readers if we did so now.

  11. you gotta be kidding !! what sort of disservice ?

    the "rest of the site's readers" would not be limited in the slightest.

    for those readers that were interested in gm and the volt, all they would have to do is click on the "hybrid" button.

    that technology is short-lived at this point, and of no interest to me, and i bet many others on this site.

    it would be an extremely simple thing to do - just adding another category.

    but being the gm fancier that you are, i cant expect anything further from you.

  12. @EV Enthusiast: I have heard the argument many times that the Volt is nothing more than a "hybrid," but I don't agree with it. Sorry 'bout that, but we're going to have to agree to disagree.

    And I'd love to know what you consider to be "short-lived" ... 3 years? 5 yrs? 10 yrs?

    BTW, remind me which plug-in car you own? Many commenters identify their cars (so readers can make their own judgments on any bias in those comments), but I don't think I've seen that from you--and I'm curious which one you do own.

  13. John, as I have stated before, I prefer things the way they are. Please keep information on everything included here, meaning EVs, PHEVs, NG vehicles, fuel cell vehicles, etc...

  14. @EV Enthusiast,

    I don't think we need to beat that "dead horse" again on whether Volt is a hybrid or EREV... Over 198 comments already spent on arguing with that. Even the so called "GM designer Chris Teague" admitted at the end he didn't even know how the Volt worked in EV mode (or it changed from his understanding). I am also NOT going to discredit him on his "claim" on "worked" on the Volt and worked on "research" of the Volt.

    The fact of the matter is that Volt can perfectly operate without a single drop of gas for most people's daily commute and its main drive train is electric. In my book, that is an EV. The "range extender" is just a bonus. No different than the home made Turbine kit range extender...

  15. @ James,

    Volt make an impact in my household and I want to read about it. Your anti-Volt attitude is repeated over and over again. Volt has outsold Corvette. If that is NOT significant, then I don't know what you are talking about... My Volt is NOT powered by coal, but rather 1 MW solar at work...

  16. Again, to add some perspective with the percentages *available* for purchase so far this year:

    http://bit.ly/M3TnI2

  17. At what point will Nissan give up its 20,000 unit goal for the year? The only way I can see it if Nissan drops the price to $25k before rebates and fix all the battery and charger issue right now...

  18. I expect/hope Focus EV to do well enough to match the sales of Leaf...

  19. @Xiaolong: Curious what leads you to expect that--since Ford by its own numbers anticipates making no more than 5,000 Focus Electrics a year at maximum?

  20. Well, 500-600 is easily reachable for Ford b/c the following reasons:

    1. It is new, so the PURE EV fans who look for something slightly better (6.6KW charger, liquid cooling, more performance, better looking [subjective]) are going to buy it. Especially Ford loving fan who love EVs as well.

    2. It qualifies for CA HOV sticker (white one) and $10K ($7,500 + $2,500 in CA) discount. That will bring the price down to $30k. Very competitive to other EV prices in terms of "options" and performances.

    3. With all the recent problems with Leaf battery and chargers, I would expect the Focus EV to take advantage of that and win over some concerned EV buyers.

  21. @Xiaolong: Hmmmmmm. That assumes that Ford actually WANTS to sell as many Focus Electrics as it has demand for, doesn't it?

  22. I agree. But @ 395 units per month, it is actually less than 5,000 units (4740) per year, within the goal that Ford set earlier. So far, Focus EV has been far below that goal with only 5 months to go. Also, Ford would love to have at least some publicity that it beat Nissan in their own game... (especially since it is gearing up to at least try to beat Toyota at the hybrid game with C-Max and Fusion hybrid/energi models).

  23. Well, I guess @ 38 units, Focus EV did just about as well as i-MIEV...

    Oh well, I had high hopes...

  24. Match LEAF sales, at the $40K price of a Volt, WITHOUT the ICE range extender?? Not likely.

  25. Hi John,

    Oh, one question. Toyota owners have been telling me that Prius Plugin sales are slowing down b/c all sales are "pre-orders". Now, the pre-orders are filled and Prius don't have the capacity to keep up the PiP demand. Is that true or Toyota owner's wishful thinking?

  26. It's not the final word but a 30 mile cars.com search in central NJ returns 161 Prius Plugins and 17 Volts.

  27. @Xiaolong: Can't speak to capacity, but Toyota have said they expect a number around 10,000 Prius Plug-Ins a year in the U.S. once it settles down.

  28. okay, thanks for that info. 10,000 is still a decent number. I wonder if the cheaper newly launch C-Max energi is going to put a serious dent in that figure. (Not to mention the Fusion Energi coming out also).

  29. For an even wider perspective, here is a comparison of the worldwide distribution of all Volts (~24,000) and LEAFs (~32,000) manufactured to date:

    http://bit.ly/Qfxlm8

  30. Is there a breakdown by model year and calendar year?

  31. I imagine that EU and Japan (big Leaf market) aren't that hot...

  32. I meant the weather aren't that hot which helps the Leaf battery problem...

  33. People still don't understand a domestic powered grid is better than oil powered cars......

    MrEnergyCzar

  34. One nice thing about electricity is the diversity of resources that can be used to make it.

  35. And the efficiency of the "electrical drive system" is far superior to ICE. Also, a single source of power plant is still far easier to clean up and control than millions of cars on the road...

  36. for those of you who have an interest in us getting off oil-

    http://www.codaautomotive.com/electric-vehicle-blog/josh-tickell-qa/

  37. When the CODA show us that they can build a car that safely pass the crash test, then I will show some interest...

  38. I believe the main reason for Leaf sales dropping like a rock for the past several months is that Leaf buyers are informed buyers and with all of the improvements promised with the 2013 model buyers are waiting. I have wanted to purchase a Leaf for a while now, but had to wait to be able to afford one. Now that I can, it would seem stupid to run out and buy a 2012 when I can wait a couple months for a better car.

    I live in Tennessee and plan to drive 75 miles in the winter to Titans games in Nashville. I also plan to run the heater in the winter. Even though my state has more public charging stations than California (mostly unused), I still look forward to the extra 25 miles I am suposed to get from the 2013.

  39. @Philip: What's your source for "the extra 25 miles I am supposed to get from the 2013" idea? I have not heard that. Got a link?

  40. Let me Google that for you John :)

    "25 miles Nissan leaf 2013"

    http://www.treehugger.com/cars/2013-nissan-leaf-get-20-25-extra-miles-cold-weather-thanks-new-heater.html

  41. @John: Ah, thanks, that makes rather more sense. This is NOT an "extra 25 miles" of range. This is less impact on existing range from using heater in cold weather. Thanks.

  42. Yeah, sorry about that, I meant not losing 25 miles to the heater in winter...

  43. jv,

    it is not important what sort of car i own.

    but a couple days ago, i answered that question to xi, which i have answered quite a few times here.

    i have no bias towards any particular car. i want to get off oil, so not interested in cars that burn gas.

    i no longer care what sort of format you use, as i have found a site that i prefer, that has an area strictly for bevs, which is what i was asking of you.

    good luck with your site.

    short-lived in the sense that it is a technology that came out at the same time that a better technology is also coming out.

    in terms of time frame, i am keeping to my 10-year prediction between evs and ices.

    if evs do improve to that point, hybrid technology will be inconsequential.

    again, good luck.

  44. @EV Enthusiast: We'll be sorry to see you go.

    But I will bet you dinner at any restaurant in the 48 states that more than half of global vehicle production in 2032 (that's 20 years hence) will still have gasoline engines. Wanna take that bet?

  45. john,

    i suspect that even you would be happy if you are wrong.

    and i will certainly be disappointed if you are correct.

    i will still stop by once in awhile.

    since i am not really gonna ever meet you for dinner, i can not make you a dinner bet.

    but i am happy to make it a gentlemen's bet.

    as i told chris and others, i am sticking to my guns.

    and will be more than happy to admit i was incorrect in 10 years, if that is the case, and i am lucky enough to still be alive.

  46. @ EV enthusiast: Of course you could just skip the stories that are of no interest to you like I skip most of the stuff about small cars, diesels, non plug-in hybrids and stuff like that since my interest mainly lies in new energy vehicles.

    Maybe your real grief is the lack of vision and sense of urgency regarding new energy vehicles that's typical for this blog, that's still very much rooted in the ICE age and tends to be sceptical about the possibilities of short term change. Doesn't mean there isn't a lot to learn from reading this blog though. Reading these green car blogs to me is more about understanding society than saving it from disaster which I fear is a ship that long since sailed anyway.

  47. hi chris,

    thanks for the nice words. and i dont doubt that you are correct to a large degree.

    i know the only way off oil is with bevs. and while i dont read most of the stuff, it is irritating to constantly see stuff about the volt, and stuff about range.

    i tried to impart some words of wisdom, for those who were interested.

    on the other site, i just can look at the bev progress. that is all i need to know, regarding if and when we get off oil.

    as a systems analyst, my job was to design a system to meet the goal. the sad fact is that there is tons of resistance towards the goal of getting off oil.

    which is why we have the system as it is, today.

  48. for all the rest of you, please understand that lack of technology has nothing to do with anything.

    if our oil became polluted tomorrow to the point of non-use, the bigwigs would have evs to sell us at a price that we could afford faster than you can blink your eyes.

    i was still young and naive during our oil crises. older people told me that we did not really have oil shortages, but i was scared that we might run out, and tried to do my best not to use as much.

    i had just started driving. i look back and chuckle at how little i knew about how the real financial world works.

    so much of our problems revolve around oil, that we just must simply get off it, one way or the other.

    good luck to everyone.

  49. @EV Enthusiast,

    You keep mention that you are "system analyst", yet you fail to see the fact that Volt and hybrids such as Prius are 1 step in the direction of getting us off Oil. In fact, Volt was 2/3 way there. Sure, you expect to reach the sky in 1 step. But world don't work that way. Getting there 2/3 the way is a good step. It might NOT meet your "10 year" frames. Well, maybe your 10 year frame is way too agreesive.

    You might be a system analyst, but your aggressive framework without realty check only make me feel like you are a bad system analyst.

  50. There are more comments in this thread
  51. Half? More probably 80% at that point. But 20% EV or EREV is still very substantial.

    By 2050 - different story, possibly $300/bbl oil and all other sorts of issues like population hitting 8 billion, water wars, etc.

  52. @EV Enthusiast,

    Let me help me with your problem... JV has repeatly pointed out the fact that you can click on "All Cars Electric" button on the top of the Navigation bar on the website to ONLY show you things "electric" like you wanted.

    Here is the link since you can't find it yourself...

    http://www.greencarreports.com/news/electric-cars

    Again, the site is called "green car reports" and it has a designated "electric car section"...

    If you have problem using your computer or mouse, I won't be able to help you on that...

  53. Since you are personally against calling the Volt an EV, then you can always skip all Volt related articles. I can't change your anti-Volt/anti-GM attitude (I tried). That is your personal issue. Your favorite EV company CODA has yet to release any sales figure.

  54. The sales differences within the plug-in niche market is imperceptible considering 1.15 million new cars were sold in the US in July 2012. They are all under 1/10 of a percent, except for the Volt which managed 0.16 of one percent (0.16%)

    Chevy Volt : 1,849
    Toyota Plug-In Pruis : 688
    Nissan Leaf : 395
    Ford Focus EV: 38
    Mitsubishi i: 33
    Tesla Model S: 29 (since June 22)
    Honda Fit EV: 7

  55. @Spike: You're correct about the percent of overall market. But our readers are demonstrably eager for this info each month, so we provide it.

    Where does your Model S figure come from? The factory consistently refuses to release delivery data, so I presume it's imputed from some other measurement. Curious to know which one ....

  56. http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Tesla-produces-its-1st-50-Model-S-sedans-3761807.php

    50 produced, and 29 for customer, 21 for demo...

  57. @Xialong: Thanks for the link.

  58. Additional info in this blog post on Tesla's website:

    http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/inside-tesla-080212

    "We have produced 50 cars to date and our plan is to double that number in the next two to three weeks. Production will then continue to escalate even more significantly every two to three weeks thereafter. "

  59. i suspect leaf buyers are holding back waiting for next years model.
    if I had a choice between a leaf today and in 6 months one with slightly better range and a 6 KW charger that halves L2 charge time, i'd wait.

  60. No EVs for sale in Puerto Rico, why is that? I have talk to some Toyota, Chevrolet an Nissan Salesman and the all respond that "there is no volume production at this time, sales are only at California" obviously they din't know what they are talking, but, why automakers have forgot PR for their EV cars?

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